Skip to content

The 100 greatest WVU men’s basketball players of all time: Nos. 20-16 | WVU SPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Below is another installation in this lengthy series with a count down from Nos. 20-16.

16—Tony Robertson (1976-77)— A native of Detroit, where he led Southwestern High School to a state championship his senior season, Robertson spent the next two years in the junior college ranks at Eastern Arizona College, where he averaged over 20 points per game.

WVU assistant coach Jim Amick, who was a member of Joedy Gardner’s staff, recruited Robertson to West Virginia, and the 6-foot-5 guard immediately became one of the Mountaineers’ best offensive forces ever. Teaming with the likes of Warren Baker, Bob Huggins and Maurice Robinson, Robertson led West Virginia in scoring as both a junior (17.9 ppg) and senior (18.1 ppg) while also topping the squad in assists in 1975-76 with 3.6 per game.

The shooting guard only played two seasons at West Virginia, but he still scored 1,026 points, handed out 196 assists and pulled down 239 rebounds. He was an Eastern 8 first-team selection in 1977, and he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. After his college career, Robertson was drafted in the fourth round of the 1977 NBA Draft by Los Angeles, which quickly traded him to Atlanta. He spent the 1977-78 season with the Hawks and the 1978-79 campaign with Golden State, playing 138 NBA games in all.

17—Mike Gansey (2005-06)— A 6-foot-4 wing from the Cleveland suburb of Olmsted Falls, Gansey took a twisting path to West Virginia. But once he arrived, it was magical for both the player and the team.

He was an outstanding prep player, scoring 1,909 points in his Olmstead Falls High career, earning first-team all-state honors twice and finishing as the runner-up to LeBron James as Ohio’s Division II player of the year in 2001. Gansey initially attended St. Bonaventure, and things were going well for him at the Atlantic 10 school, where he averaged 8.3 points per game as a freshman and 13.9 as a sophomore. But then scandal rocked the Bonnies, and Gansey decided to get out.

He transferred to West Virginia, believing that the Mountaineers were headed up under coach John Beilein, who had been at WVU just one year (14-15) before Gansey’s arrival in the summer of 2003. As a transfer, Gansey had to sit out the 2003-04 campaign (17-14), but when he hit the floor the following season, both he and the Mountaineers took off.

Mike secured a starting spot at WVU right out of the gate and had a nice regular season, averaging 10.8 points as WVU went 18-9 in ’04-’05. But then, both he and the Mountaineers shot up like a rocket in the 2005 postseason. The team was considered an NCAA Tournament bubble team before the ’05 Big East Tourney, but Gansey led West Virginia to the Big East championship game by averaging 16.3 points in four Madison Square Garden contests.

Included in there was a pair of free throws with a fraction of a second left to lift WVU to a 78-76 victory over No. 19 Villanova in the semifinals. The Mountaineers did fall to Syracuse (68-59) the next night in the Big East title game, but their spot in the next week’s NCAAs was secured, and Mike’s Garden performance earned him all-tournament honors.

The incredible run continued for Gansey and the Mountaineers in the subsequent NCAAs. He scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the two overtime periods while lifting WVU to a 111-105 upset of future NBA legend Chris Paul and No. 5 Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament’s second round at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center, just 20 miles from his childhood home. The joyride ended for Gansey and the Mountaineers in the Elite Eight with a heartbreaking 93-85 overtime loss to Louisville in Albuquerque.

Still, that postseason flurry set the stage for Gansey’s senior season; he would live up to all expectations. In securing first-team all-Big East honors and helping WVU to a 22-11 mark in 2005-06, Gansey averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. He was held below double figures in scoring just three of the 33 games that season and reached 20 points or more 10 times, including a 33-point effort against Marquette that featured an 8-of-11 performance from 3-point range.

Gansey’s senior season concluded with a crushing 74-71 loss to Texas in the NCAA Sweet 16. In his two seasons at WVU, Gansey scored 976 points (14.4 per game) and grabbed 369 rebounds (5.4 per game) while hitting 119 of 302 3 -pointers (39.4%). His career 3-point percentage is the fifth-best in West Virginia history.

After his college career, Gansey spent five years playing professional basketball, three overseas and two in the NBA G League. He then moved into the administrative side of the business, working in the front office for the Cleveland Cavaliers or their G League team, the Canton Charge, for a decade. On Feb. 23 of this year, he took over as the Cavs’ general manager. Gansey was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

18—Lester Rowe (1982-85)— A fan’s homemade sign hung in the WVU Coliseum through most of the mid-’80s that read, “Fly the friendly skies,” with a painting of Rowe in the center. It was a perfect characterization because perhaps no Mountaineer could fly like the 6-foot-5 “Lester Rowe from Buffalo.”

His thunderous dunks are still legendary at West Virginia, but he was more than just a high-wire act. In his four years at WVU, he led the team in scoring twice (15.6 ppg in 1983-84 and 14.4 in 1984-85) and was tops in rebounding three times (5.5 as a freshman, 6.9 as a junior and 7.0 as a senior ).

He earned a variety of conference honors during that time, including all-freshman team in 1982, all-tournament in 1983 and ’84 — a year in which he was the Atlantic 10 tourney’s MVP — and second-team all-A10 as a senior in 1985. Rowe helped coach Gale Catlett’s teams to four straight 20-win seasons during his Mountaineer days, which included three trips to the NCAA Tournament (1982, ’83 and ’84).

The ’83 and ’84 clubs also won the Atlantic 10 Tournament and the ’82, ’83 and ’85 squads earned A-10 regular-season titles as well. After his college career, Rowe played professional basketball for over a decade at a variety of stops, including Argentina, France and Germany. Then he got into coaching, and for five years (1998-02), he served as an assistant coach on Catlett’s staff.

He also worked as an assistant coach for eight years (2011-19) for the WVU women’s basketball program and for the last three, he’s been on the women’s basketball staff at Northern Kentucky. Rowe was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

19—Warren Baker (1973-76)— The state prep player of the year after leading Greenbrier East High School to the Class AAA championship, the 6-foot-7 Baker averaged 25.3 points and 18.8 rebounds in his three seasons with the Spartans. Earnest Warren Baker was recruited by a who’s who list of colleges, but he picked WVU in part because he wanted to follow fellow southern West Virginian Jerome Anderson to Morgantown.

Bake was part of the first freshman class in decades that had an opportunity to play on the varsity level right away, and the young phenom took advantage of that by leading the Mountaineers in both scoring (16.8 ppg) and rebounding (11.2 per game) in his rookie season. No Mountaineer freshman has ever averaged more in either category.

Baker continued to post double-doubles (54 in his career, second in school history only behind Jerry West’s 70) in the years ahead. He averaged 17.7 points and 13.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore and 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds as a junior. He rarely came off the floor in those seasons, averaging over 36 minutes per game in each, including a high of 39.6 as a sophomore. That’s the most of any Mountaineer in school history, and he also has the third-most on that list, averaging 38.32 minutes as a freshman.

Kevin Jones, with 38.33 minutes per game in 2011-12, is the only other Mountaineer in the top three in that single-season category. Having started 83 straight games going back to his freshman year, Baker saw second-year coach Joedy Gardner cut into his playing time as a senior. He only started 13 of 28 games that season, and his minutes per game were chopped by a third. Bake’s other stats went down as well, as he averaged 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in his senior season.

Still, Baker finished his career with 1,556 points and 1,070 rebounds. He is the only West Virginia player to ever lead the team in rebounding for four straight seasons. He was just the third Mountaineer to post more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career, along with Jerry West (2,309 points and 1,240 rebounds) and Lloyd Sharr (1,101/1,178).

To show how hard that feat is to accomplish, only one other West Virginia player has joined that exclusive club in the 46 years since — Kevin Jones with 1,822 points and 1,048 rebounds from 2009-12. Baker remained at WVU after his playing career ended, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in history and then a master’s degree in counseling and guidance. He worked as a guidance counselor at Westover Junior High for seven years.

He also served as an assistant basketball coach at University High and West Virginia Wesleyan as well as the head coach at North Marion. He eventually joined the faculty at Fairmont State, where he spent 25 years as an education professor. Baker recently retired from FSU, though he remains busy serving as a color commentator for a variety of basketball broadcasts, including those of his alma mater. “Wonderful Warren” was inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame in 2011.

20—Jerome Anderson (1973-75)— A highly-regarded recruit coming out of storied Mullens High School, Jerome Anderson was a unique player for his time. At 6-foot-5, he was one of the first “big guards” at WVU and has long remained one of the best the school has had.

Anderson’s was the last freshman class that was restricted by the NCAA from varsity competition, so he only had three seasons with the Mountaineer varsity. He made the most of each one, though, averaging 12.1 points per game as a sophomore, 11.5 as a junior and 14.1 as a senior.

He has scored 971 total points in his three varsity seasons, but he could do more than just score. He averaged 2.6 assists in his career as well as 6.4 rebounds. His importance of him to his two coaches, first Sonny Moran and then Joedy Gardner, was best displayed by the fact that he played an average of 34.8 minutes per game in his 77 varsity contests.

Even now, 47 years later, only three other Mountaineers have averaged more than that for their careers — Fritz Williams (36.9), Wil Robinson (36.2) and Rod Thorn (35.9) — and no one has averaged more than 33 per game in the past four decades.

Anderson was a third-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1975 and spent two seasons in the NBA — one with the Celtics’ championship squad in ’76 and the next year with the Indiana Pacers. He eventually moved overseas, playing and then coaching in Sweden and Norway. He remained in Sweden until passing away in 2009 at the age of 55 after a lengthy illness. He was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.